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New NIC board elects McKenzie chair, hires Macomber

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | December 6, 2022 1:09 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — North Idaho College trustees voted on 3-2 Monday night to select a new board chairman, hire a new college attorney on the spot and freeze the hiring for new and vacant positions within the president’s cabinet.

It was the first meeting after the election of new trustees Tarie Zimmerman, Brad Corkill and Mike Waggoner.

Waggoner joined holdover trustees Todd Banducci and Greg McKenzie to form a majority bloc.

“It’s a new era,” Banducci said. “A new dawn here at NIC.”

Longtime NIC attorney Marc Lyons, who submitted a letter of resignation to the trustees last week, was not present at Monday's meeting.

Banducci introduced a resolution to hire Art Macomber, an attorney who ran unsuccessfully in the 2022 Republican primary election for Attorney General. Macomber practiced real estate law for 15 years, according to his website, and now practices “election, constitutional and natural resource law.”

Banducci got up and handed out a document to the trustees, which appeared to be a resolution regarding Macomber.

The resolution was not listed on the meeting agenda as an action item, nor was it included in the packet of public documents released with the agenda prior to the board meeting.

NIC President Nick Swayne said the contract for legal services should go out to bid and not be awarded directly to an individual because it will exceed $10,000.

“I do believe you are violating state law on contracting,” Swayne said to McKenzie.

Trustees voted 3-2 to adopt the resolution and hire Macomber, with Corkill and Zimmerman opposed.

While Macomber dragged a chair from the audience to the end of the table where the board was seated, Banducci produced employment paperwork, including a contract that Swayne objected to signing.

Swayne said he would not sign the contract until it’s reviewed by another lawyer. When Banducci asked him who he would consult with, Swayne said he would ask his personal attorney.

Banducci asked Swayne if he was refusing to comply with a direct order from the board. Swayne responded that the trustees cannot force him to commit an illegal act.

“I have no objection if it’s a legal contract, but I have a responsibility to the college to make sure we’re not doing something that’s not allowed,” Swayne said.

The board again voted 3-2 to hire Macomber as attorney for the board on a temporary basis, until the contract can be reviewed.

“I’m not comfortable moving forward with a yes vote on something of this nature,” Zimmerman said. “I would need more time to review. I have not had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Macomber.”

Banducci then introduced another resolution that was not made public prior to the meeting.

When Staff Assembly Chair Keri Simonet requested that the resolution be read into the record, McKenzie and Banducci refused, though Macomber read it in part.

“Hiring for new and vacant positions in the president’s cabinet are hereby suspended for a time to be determined by the board at a later date,” he said.

Banducci said the resolution is necessary to address “mistruths and misinformation” about NIC’s accreditation.

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities sanctioned NIC with a warning earlier this year, citing persistent issues with the board of trustees.

In order to resolve the accreditation concerns, the NWCCU has required NIC to hire a permanent president, implement a board conduct policy and work toward filling vacant executive positions at the college.

“I don’t want to see us moving forward and doing anything in particular in this vein until we’ve got our feet under us,” Banducci said.

Banducci, McKenzie and Waggoner have maintained that the college’s accreditation is not at risk.

The details of the resolutions discussed and signed during the meeting remain unclear. The documents were unavailable Monday night.

Earlier in the meeting, before the resolutions were introduced, the board voted 3-2 to select Banducci as chair.

After voting for himself, Banducci said he didn’t want to be chair and rejected the nomination.

Banducci spoke for nearly 10 minutes about what he described as unfair treatment from the community, including alleged name-calling and threats, and called his unspecified detractors “vile and evil.”

“You’re not that important to me,” he said. “I challenge you to get away from it being about me.”

He also objected to some members of the community choosing not to patronize his business and declining to socialize with him.

“I’m a hometown boy,” Banducci said. “You should be welcoming me.”

Banducci then nominated McKenzie to be chair. Trustees voted 3-2 to select him.

photo

Macomber

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